Children have historically been considered as the “hidden victims” of domestic abuse as many agencies focus upon the needs of adults.
However, evidence has shown that there are significant implications for children in the household.
- In households where domestic violence occurs 50% of children are also being directly abused by the same person.
- In families with children where domestic violence occurs 90% of children are in the same or next room during an incident.
- 75% of children on the ‘at risk’ register live in households where domestic violence occurs.
- Mothers who are beaten are more likely to physically abuse their children than mothers who are not abused. Sometimes this is to avoid the perpetrator from punishing their children more severely.
- Domestic abuse can be perpetrated by wider family members through forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour based violence.
There is a direct correlation between domestic abuse and child abuse which means that professionals should always consider the possibility of the co-existence of both types of abuse if one is identified. .
The government measures the wellbeing of all children in England and Wales using the ‘Every Child Matters’ framework. The aim is that services support all children to;
- Be Healthy
- Stay Safe
- Enjoy and Achieve
- Make a Positive Contribution
- Achieve Economic Well-being
It is recognised that children’s chances of achieving the five outcomes of ‘Every Child Matters’ are adversely affected by the presence of domestic abuse.
We should also remember that children face significant losses for example their home, their school, their dad (or father-figure), their own room, their friends and their processions.
While living in households obviously carries significant risks for children leaving a relationship does not always guarantee children’s safety. Research shows that abusers frequently use contact visits to abuse their victims and their children. Research in 1999 for example, found that 76% of 148 children ordered by the courts to have contact with a violent parent were said to have been abused in the following ways during contact visits:
- 10% were sexually abused
- 15% were physically abused
- 62% were emotionally harmed
- 36% were neglected
- 26% were abducted or involved in an abduction attempt